Bundler and JRuby — A Ruby Rant

This post is supposed to be auto-posted on Saturday, March 3rd, since I’m testing the new Typo 6 — I used to write posts in advance and let them be posted, but then the support broke, I hope the new version supports it again. If not, it might be a good excuse to fork Typo altogether.

So after a quick poll on Twitter it seems like people are not really disliking my series of Ruby rants, so I think I’ll continue writing a bit more about them. Let me start with making it clear that I’m writing this with the intent of showing the shortcoming of a development environment – and a developers circle – that has closed itself up so much lately that everything is good as long as some other Ruby developer did it before. This is clearly shown on some of the posts defending bundler in the reddit comments about one of my previous posts.

For what concerns Bundler, I don’t think I’m blaming the wrong technology. Sure, Bundler has simplified quite a bit the handling of dependencies and that’s true for Gentoo developers as well (it’s still better than the stupid bundling done by the Rails components in 2.3 series), but the problem here is that it’s way too prone to abuse, especially due to the use of “one and only one” dependencies. I could show you exactly what you mean by simply pointing out that the bourne I already complained about depends on a version of mocha (0.10.4) that is broken on Ruby 1.9 (neither 0.10.3 nor 0.10.5 suffer from this problem, and bourne works fine with either, but they still depend on the only broken one because that was out when they released bourne-1.1.0), but I’ll show you exactly how screwed the system is with a different issue altogether.

Can you vouch that Bundler works on JRuby just as well as it works on MRI 1.8 and 1.9?

If you just answered “Yes”, you have a problem: you’re overconfident that widely used Ruby gems work just because others use them. And this kind of self-validation is not going to let you understand why my work (and Hans’s, and Alex’s) is important.

Let’s take a step back again; one of the proclaimed Ruby strengths is always considered to be the fact that most developers tie long and complex tests in their code so that the code is behaving as expected when changing dependencies, implementation and operating systems. While this can build confidence on one’s code, the sheer presence of these tests is not going to be enough, as many times the developer is the only one running them, and he or she might not have many different operating systems to try it on (multiple implementations are somewhat solved by using RVM and similar projects). Of course it is true that Travis is making it more accessible to try your code on as many different configurations as possible, but it’s still no magic wand.

So there are tests in the libraries, and that’s good — tests are also supposed to be installed by RubyGems, and it should be possible to run them through the gem package manager itself (although I can’t find an option to do that right now), but sometimes you end up with one file missing here or there; in some cases it’s datafiles that the tests use (rather than the test files themselves), or it’s a configuration file that is required for them to run — lately, the nasty and ironic part is that it’s the Gemfile file that is missing from the .gem packaging, making it impossible to run the tests from where, especially when dependencies are only listed there.

An aside, for those of you who might want to find me at fault; I only own a single RubyGems package: Ruby-Elf and it does not come with tests. The reason is that the test data itself is quite big, and most of the Gem users wouldn’t care about the tests anyway (especially since I couldn’t find how to run them). For this reason I decided that the .gem package is only used for execution, and not for packaging. The tarball is always released and tagged so you should use that for packaging; which is exactly what dev-ruby/ruby-elf does.

Okay now you’re probably confused: what has it to do with JRuby that some gems lack a Gemfile (which is used by bundler)? Nothing really, I was just trying to give you an idea of how tricky it can be for us to make sure that the gems we package actually work. I’m now going back to Bundler.

So Bundler comes with its own set of tests — and most importantly it’s designed to be tested against different versions of RubyGems library which is very important for them since they hook deep into the RubyGems API — to the point one wonders if it wouldn’t make more sense to merge Bundler’s dependency rigging and RubyGems loading code in one library, and the bundle and gem commands on a package manager tool project. This is good although we might not want to test it with a number of RubyGems libraries but just the one we have installed. Different target, same code to leverage though.

Anyway, Bundler’s tests work fine in Gentoo for both Ruby 1.8, 1.9 and Ruby Enterprise… but they can’t work with JRuby, and it’s not just a matter of Gentoo packaging. The problem is that Bundler’s Rakefile insists on running tests related to the manual and documentation as well. It’s not too bad, indeed the bundle documentation is installed as man pages, even though these man pages are not installed in the standard man directory, so while they are displayed on bundle --help they are not available to man bundle. I still find it nice: it’s not too different from what I’ve done with Ruby-Elf, where the tools’ help is only available as man pages (but the Gentoo packaging make them available to man as well).

These man pages are generated through a tool that could probably interest me as well — the current man pages for Ruby-Elf are generated through DocBook, which does make them more well organized, but is still one hefty dependency. Anyway the tool is ronn which is a Ruby gem that builds man pages out of Markdown-written text files. The problem is that rather than leaving it possible for the man pages to be generated beforehand, the Rakefile wants to make sure ronn can be called by the current Ruby implementation.

Which should be easy: since ronn is written in Ruby, just make it possible to install it for JRuby. It would be easy indeed if not for the library it uses for Markdown parsing and output generation; it’s not the usual BlueCloth that we’re mostly used to, instead it uses rdiscount which is another (faster?) implementation of Markdown, which is based once again on a C native extension. Being a C extension, that is not available to JRuby, which means that you can’t use ronn with JRuby as it is now.

Since both BlueCloth and rdiscount are based on C extensions, one would wonder how do you make it possible for JRuby to handle Markdown? The answer comes with another gem, which I have learnt about while bumping Radius (a support gem for Radiant), and is called kramdown and is a pure-Ruby, yet fast, implementation of Markdown. For basic usage it’s identical to use to BlueCloth to the point that my monster switched this week from BlueCloth to kramdown with just two lines changes (one to the Gemfile the other to the code).

So I reported to Charles that Bundler can’t have its tests running with Bundler, and he obviously suggested me to poke the Bundler developers to see if they can help out to fix this up. Unfortunately the suggestion is something like you can patch it up but we won’t do the work for you — which is understandable to a point.

The problem with this is that this means nobody has ever tested Bundler on JRuby; if you’re using it there, then you’re assuming it works because everyone else is using it, but there might well be a completely unknown, nasty bug that is just waiting to eat one user’s work on a corner case.

If you do care about JRuby, one very nice thing you could do here is getting in touch with ronn’s upstream, and convert it to use kramdown; then it should be possible to have a fully functional Bundler, relying solely on JRuby. Until that’s done, Gentoo’s JRuby will lack Bundler, and that also means it’ll lack a long list of other software.

2 thoughts on “Bundler and JRuby — A Ruby Rant

  1. First off…we definitely have run the Bundler tests before, but I’m not sure it’s our responsibility to keep running every gems tests against JRuby until the end of time. The ronn dependency seems to have been added later, since I believe bundler was green (or nearly green) on JRuby in the recent past.Second…since you whined about it: https://github.com/rtomayko…What we really need is a meta-gem for ‘markdown’ similar to those that exist for ‘json’, so people won’t depend directly on rdiscount.

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  2. Related to your Ruby bashing in general not this post specifically:https://github.com/rails/ra…A guy found a ridiculous on by default vulnerability in rails, reported it, got the bug closed because they said it was rails app developers responsibility.Rails is hosted on github which is written in Rails…So he just commited straight to rails’ git master on github asking if they still think it’s not an issue.Also else where he posted from 1000 years in the future.:/So much for a care about security… :( They are still arguing about who is to blame

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